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When Words Fail You: Understanding Aphasia

By Dr. Mona Greenfield and Ellayne Ganzfried

Imagine being unable to use or comprehend words and have difficulty speaking, reading and writing?  This is the case for the close to 2 million Americans who have aphasia. Aphasia impairs a person’s ability to process language, speak, and understand others. However, aphasia does not affect a person’s intelligence. Many people with aphasia also have difficulty with reading and writing. For people with aphasia it is the ability to access ideas and thoughts through language-not the ideas and thoughts themselves-that is disrupted. The most common cause of aphasia is a stroke; approximately 25% of the more than 795,000 Americans who suffer a stroke each year will experience aphasia. It can also result from head injury, brain tumor, or other neurological causes.  Aphasia affects about 1 in every 250 people.  Despite these numbers, aphasia typically is not recognized or understood—even by some health professionals—compounding its devastating consequences. While aphasia is most common among older people, it can occur in people of all ages, races, nationalities, and gender.   There are many types of aphasia and symptoms can vary greatly but all people with aphasia have difficulty communicating. People can continue to improve over years. Improvement is a process that involves helping the individual and family understand the nature of aphasia and learning new strategies to communicate.  This is best accomplished through speech-language therapy. Many people with aphasia find aphasia support groups to be a place to share information and find an understanding community. The person with aphasia should be evaluated by a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist. You can find speech-language pathologists that specialize in aphasia by contacting the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association or The National Aphasia Association June is National Aphasia Awareness Month and is the perfect opportunity to help raise awareness of aphasia. Educate people in your community about aphasia. Information and materials are available through the National Aphasia Association and Aphasia Recovery Connection Remember that aphasia advocacy and increasing awareness is a year round activity. Mona Greenfield, a speech-Language pathologist and clinical social worker founded Metropolitan Communication Associates which is a program for individuals with neurogenic disorders utilizing a holistic approach to acceptance, rehabilitation and healing.  Ellayne Ganzfried, a speech-language pathologist and former Executive Director of the National Aphasia Association, is currently working with Mona in the program.  They have collaborated on a book called “The Word Escapes Me: Voices of Aphasia.” This book provides much needed insight into this devastating communication disorder through the eyes of clinicians, caregivers and persons with aphasia.  The book can increase your knowledge of aphasia and help you learn strategies to increase public awareness of aphasia. You can explore innovative approaches to aphasia rehabilitation and groups. Read personal and candid stories of frustration, courage, hope, love and acceptance. The book is available through Balboa Press:  or Amazon Understanding, patience and some commonsense strategies will help family, friends and caregivers in communicating with people with aphasia. Those are: 1. Have the person’s attention before you speak. 2. Minimize or eliminate background noise (TV, radio, other people). 3. Keep your voice at a normal level. 4. Keep communication simple but adult. 5. Give the person time to speak; avoid finishing person’s thoughts 6. Communicate with drawings, gestures, writing and facial expressions.   7. Confirm that you're communicating successfully with yes and no questions.   8. Praise all attempts to speak and downplay any errors. 9. Engage in normal activities whenever possible. 10. Encourage independence; avoid being overprotective. Click here for our radio show on aphasia with Dr. Mona Greenfield and Ellayne Ganzfried. Dr. Mona Greenfield is a speech-language pathologist and clinical social worker. She has taught in many graduate programs in speech-language pathology, including NYU. For the past 13 years, she has blended her training in speech-language pathology and social work by founding and directing the Metropolitan Communication Associates and in her private practice. Ellayne Ganzfried is a speech-language pathologist and the former Executive Director of the National Aphasia Association. She is a Fellow of the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA). Ellayne has created and managed several speech, hearing and rehabilitation programs in New York and Massachusetts.

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Radio Show

Radio Show

Enhance Your Caregiving Efficiency: Tips for Planning

July 11

eCareDiary's caregiving expert, Margery Pabst Steinmetz will speak to Marc Middleton, Founder and Owner of "Growing Older, Growing Bolder", a multimedia company dedicated to health and wellness about the importance of goal-setting and other strategies to help caregivers plan effectively.

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